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Of all the artists I know working today from such a critical position, few have as effectively underscored the transgressive nature of humor in their work as Laura Parnes has. It helps, of course, that’s she’s a wickedly funny person with a pitch-perfect sense of comedic timing, gleefully willing to subvert the sanctity of art as well as the institutions that circumscribe its production.
‘County Down’ is a canny, 70-minute spoof of a low-budget soap opera-horror movie for teenagers. With digitally applied hallucinogenic visual enhancements, it revolves around the invention and distribution of a psychedelic drug — delivered and consumed in nippled baby bottles — by a teenage girl named Angel. It’s a hoot: funny and, in several meanings of the term, dreadful.
Parnes’ video advances the other, much darker view—that sex and self-expression are the ultimate commodities, and things don’t always work out so nicely for the youthquake in our alienated, violent land. … Parnes’ anger rivals Dante’s—or at the very least, Todd Solondz’s—in her description of affectless youth selling itself down the river, with only Satan (in various guises) serving as an adult role model.
It seems Laura Parnes is interested in rebellion—or maybe you could say a lack of rebellion—especially as it is embodied in adolescent girls. Grim and funny, her work often fronts young female protagonists stuck in bad to worse situations. … The end result is a work loaded with genre play, believable emotional difficulty, and humor—all shellacked with an insidious sheen of apathy.
Filmed on bare-bones sets put together in gallery spaces, the video is a model of how to bring off an ambitious project with scant resources, and also of how to respect source material while transforming it. And where Acker’s novels have a quick-hit crash-and-burn intensity, Ms. Parnes video floats like a shark, forever hovering, but always watching and moving.
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Shot with an hallucination Kubrickian eye, Blood and Guts brings a sleek cinematic esthetic to the often ineptly-lensed genre of gallery video, and offers the form a new role: as Hollywood’s unconscious, peeping into the nightmare from which we cannot awake.
The performances under Ms. Parnes’s direction are funny, raunchy and skillfully maladroit. The dialogue, sleazy and fatuous, may even sound familiar: much of it is excerpted from “found” sources, including A Clockwork Orange, a George Lucas interview and the writings of a crypto-conservative art critic. Ms Parnes, who has a smart, notably unconservative critical eye, is now at work on her first feature film. I look forward to it.
I can’t think of another artist working in video whose work is as cinematic as Parnes’. Both “Blood and Guts in High School” and “Hollywood Inferno” were produced from original episodically narrative scripts and performed by professional - or at least highly gifted amateur - actors. Parnes uses color, performance, shot composition and cinematic mise-en-scene to tremendous effect, despite the fact that almost all of her shots are interiors, shot on sets that she builds in unequipped white-box art galleries.